(AscendHealthy.com) – Who isn’t looking for quick and easy meals that taste great and won’t break the bank? One-dish meals have exploded in popularity, and highly nutritious smoothie bowls have quickly become rising stars among the lineup. Shops specializing in the niche food seem to have cropped up everywhere, but not all of them are as healthy as they may seem.
Even among the better choices, not all options are equal. In some cases, what looks like a healthy meal is actually a hidden vessel for added sugars and excess calories. Here’s how to avoid unhealthy traps and do smoothie bowls right.
Smoothie Bowls: A Hidden Sugar Trap
Smoothie bowl shops, particularly those featuring variations with acai berries, have become a growing trend. Popularity doesn’t always make a product good for us, however, and while many locations sell beautiful presentations and delicious flavor combinations, a lot of them are also doctoring their products with unhealthy amounts of sweeteners.
According to the Huffington Post, Juice Press’ Acaí Blueberry Bowl contains 34 grams of sugar — well over the American Heart Association’s recommendation of 25 grams per day for women and just shy of the 36-gram daily recommendation for men. Juice Generation’s All-Star Acaí Bowl contains even more, with 47 grams, and Jamba Juice’s Acaí Primo Bowl contains a whopping 67 grams of sugar.
The portion sizes of these selections, coupled with their heavy carb content and little to no protein and fat, can be a problem. Our bodies deal with sugar more effectively when we consume it with other nutrients that can reduce its glycemic index — or how quickly we absorb the sugars in the foods we eat.
The sugar content in these smoothie bowls is likely to hit hard and fast because they don’t contain enough other ingredient types to keep sugar absorption in check.
Making Healthier Choices
People who opt to dine at commercial juice bars may want to consider asking for detailed nutrition information before ordering. The shop’s website might offer a nutritional menu.
Be careful when it comes to choosing extras. The more Nutella and peanut butter we add to our smoothie bowls, the more sugar and calories we’re also adding. When possible, choose nutrient-packed toppings, such as nuts and seeds, instead of sugary options.
How to Make Homemade Smoothie Bowls
Consider making smoothie bowls at home using fresh or frozen ingredients to control portion sizes, rein in the sugar content and boost other important nutrients.
According to Culinary Nutrition, smoothie bowls should contain several different components:
- A base liquid helps the smoothie blend into the right consistency. Almond or coconut milk, cold tea, coconut water and fresh juice are all great choices.
- Fruits and veggies comprise the bulk of the ingredients. Use about a cup of each. Bananas, pineapple, strawberries and spinach make for a great smoothie base, while just about any fruit can be used as a topping.
- A protein source will help the bowl serve as a full meal. Try a spoonful of nut butter, a dash of fresh nuts and seeds, or a scoop of spirulina powder.
- Herbs and spices offer added flavor and nutrients. Cinnamon, parsley, ginger, mint and basil are all excellent choices.
- Toppings add texture and contrasting flavors, which give these bowls a well-rounded and satisfying feel in contrast to their smoother components. Shredded coconut, dried or fresh fruit, cacao nibs, granola and edible flowers all top off the meal well.
Smoothie Bowl Recipe Ideas
Consider mixing and matching components to make the perfect, nutrition-packed bowl. We’ve found a few popular ideas worth trying.
Acai Smoothie Bowl
Acai berries have a high antioxidant content, making them a healthy choice for this meal’s base. Healthline recommends using acai powder or frozen acai purée; read labels to ensure no added sugars. Add a base liquid and fat of choice, additional berries and a serving of spinach or kale to round out this meal. Add seasoning and top the bowl as desired.
Check out four acai smoothie bowl recipes here.
Pitaya Smoothie Bowl
Pitaya, or dragon fruit, is low in calories while serving as a source of several nutrients. It contains protein, fiber and magnesium, according to Livestrong, as well as trace amounts of iron, calcium and multiple vitamins.
Minimalist Baker recommends freezing peeled dragon fruit, banana and berries for a refreshing, cool smoothie bowl base.
Fruit Smoothie Bowl
An easy and delicious take on the smoothie bowl starts simply with a variety of favorite fruits. Consider sticking to fruits low on the glycemic index, such as apples, stone fruits and strawberries, to keep the sugar total to a minimum. Kale and spinach will still hide well in the right blend, and cucumber may also work well in this meal. Try playing around with the other components to get the right combination of delicious and nutritious.
Check out these fruit smoothie bowl recipes:
- Strawberry Banana Smoothie Bowl
- Easy Mango Smoothie Bowl recipe
- Apple Pie Smoothie Bowl
- Berry Smoothie Bowl
Green Smoothie Bowl
Finding the right balance between “green” and “delicious” is the key to making this bowl shine. Crowded Kitchen recommends starting with spinach, kale or cucumber, but spirulina, chlorella or matcha powder will also work. To balance out the flavors, try frozen banana, mango or pineapple for the fruit. Some people add yogurt, even avocado, to their bases.
Smoothie bowls can be a great choice for all-in-one healthy meal options, but a careful look at their ingredients is important in keeping them as nutritious as they look. Keep the additives out and the fresh ingredients in, and this option can be a great addition to any healthy diet.
~Here’s to Your Healthy Ascension
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